M1 Racing's Horak Wins Expert Class at Barber
 April 27, 2015| 
  • Team News
Birmingham, Ala. — The battle for the championship in the Expert class of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires was a draw at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, as M1 Racing's Jay Horak took the class victory on Saturday with his AutoEnginuity #37 but finished second to his primary rival on Sunday.

Horak, from Mesa, Ariz., won the Expert class championship in 2013 driving for Dallas-based M1 Racing. The class is for drivers over the age of 30.

Saturday's timed race of 40 minutes lost 10 minutes due to a schedule change and another 10 minutes due to false starts by some over-excited drivers. Horak moved up one spot right away when Kyle Connery's car rolled to a stop between Turns Four and Five before one lap was in the books. The first four laps were run under yellow, and when the action finally started on lap five there was a tussle between Jose Gutiérrez and Dalton Kellett that gave Horak two more spots. In the meantime he was able to pass the Expert class leader, Bobby Eberle, when he finally got the chance and Horak moved into 13th place overall and first in the Expert division.

He stayed in that position until the checkered with 20 laps down, beating Eberle to the Expert class honors by 1.1887 seconds. The only difference in the running order directly around Horak for the rest of the race occurred on lap 17 when the driver who had been in front of him, Parker Nicklin, passed Alessandro Latif for 12th place overall.

Horak's fastest race lap on Saturday was a 1:25.262 for the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course near Birmingham, Ala., on lap 17. Eberle had been the faster of the two Expert-class drivers during testing, practice and qualifying, but Horak's fastest lap during Saturday's race was 0.129 of a second faster than Eberle's fastest lap of 1:25.391 set on lap 14. Horak qualified with a 1:25.0614 on Friday afternoon, just 0.29 of a second behind Eberle.

"The opening few laps were hairy with all the contact and false starts, but once we got a good start I felt racy right away," Horak said. "I was able to capitalize on the contact damage to Jose Gutiérrez’s car that caused him to lose control. That forced both Bobby Eberle and I to check up, but my exit off the curbing was cleaner, allowing me to get past him. I was able to pull a big lead and hold it the entire race. I was able to get up the field to finish 13th overall after starting 17th. Thanks to Bobby for a hell of a race."

Unfortunately, Horak didn't finish Sunday's race. He started 17th, and he moved into 15th position early after Raoul Owens' car wouldn't start and Daniel Burkett spun on the first lap after contact in Turn 17. He got one more position on lap two when Weiron Tan, Saturday's winner, was penalized for his role in Burkett's incident and had to restart at the rear of the field when the action resumed on lap four with about 22 minutes remaining in the race.

Tan passed Horak shortly after the restart to push Horak back to 15th. Horak set his fastest lap of the race on lap five with a 1:28.508, but then he went off into the grass and slid into a gravel trap between Turns One and Two to end his day and bring out the second full-course caution.

The next Pro Mazda event is another doubleheader on the 2.439-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 7-9.
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